Meet your Neighbor : Narpat Bhandari
By bayareadesi team on 10 Aug 2011
Narpat Bhandari is one of those successful emigrants from India who achieved success in his ventures abroad. He has 30 patents and papers in the field of semiconductors, software and High Definition Television (HDTV); chaired professorial position at University of California in Santa Cruz; amongst the top 10 Indian Americans honored by NFIA; founded many successful start-ups & non-profit called The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE). He is now CEO of Global School of Silicon Valley. Get to know Narpat Bhandari as he talks to our team on all things bay.
Tell us little bit about you. How long you have been in Bay Area?
I was born & brought up in a very small village in Rajasthan called Sojat (population of around 20,000 people). I did intermediate studies from Jodhpur and then went to BITS Pilani for my engineering. I came to this country for further studies, this is my 50th year, for which I am really proud. Eventually came to bay area in 1969 after approx 9 years I came to USA as there were much more opportunities in semiconductor industry.
I am eldest in siblings and have 4 sisters.My grandfather was my mentor and always encouraged me for education. I was also very blessed in memory and remembering numbers. Once I got sick and couldn’t go to school for few days. When I went back my class got ahead and my teacher was upset because I missed so much. I got one hint from him and within half hour knew more than all other students.
I have 2 sons (Rakesh & Ravi) both married now. Both my sons and one daughter-in-law are professors in Berkeley. I am extremely proud of them. They take after their mother who is also a philosopher. In a way, education is in our blood and we want to do the same thing as we move forward.
From scientist to entrepreneur, venture capitalist to philanthropist and now an educator, you have done it all. How has been your journey so far?
It has been exciting with loads of bumps on the road and learning. I look forward to every day of this wonderful journey. When I was a scientist I worked very hard as it is taught by our parents and had good success in technology world. I presented lot of papers in conferences and the group was doing phenomenal. I always told myself whether I was a student or engineer that I could do better more than what my boss is asking me to do, I haven’t achieved my fullest potential. There was always a burning desire in me to do something more.
I have also always believed it is not the hours you put in; it’s the quality of things you do. Quality comes from your desire and ambition. In past 35 years in the industry, I have never taken a sick leave and the reason is I have no desire to take time off as people often do these days.
It all comes from work ethics is persistent you can do better job. I want children to understand the importance of being meticulous and conscientious. Life and success begin with values. Education is not just about skills; it is about virtue. Virtue includes the desire to make a productive contribution to society. In fact my relaxation comes from creating new things. When you think this way, you want to surround yourself with people smarter than you. I would say—and my wife would agree—that this has been the key to my success.
What inspires you?
There were lots to do in each area where I entered, personally my education first then children’s education and now grand-children. There is lots we can bring from our parents, our heritage and culture that we could bring to this country which has the genius of assimilating the best ideas and the best talent from everywhere in the world. Silicon Valley has thrived on foreign talent, and that is not a surprise because India has a rigorous tradition of mathematics and logic. And in another sphere of American life Martin Luther King JR made this a country true to itself by adapting Gandhiji’s ideals of ahimsa which comes from the religion of my birth, Jainism. There is so much more cross-fertilization that we can do. This inspires me.
How does it feel to design one of the first PAL (programmable array logic) devices that are now heart of various FPGA/CPLD solutions out there? With the current PLD market approaching $4B in just silicon sales, how much of its credit do you think goes to the PAL device that you designed?
My desire to work, to innovate, to find new changes helped. Fortunately I was surrounded by people who were smart sometimes smarter than me. That helped me to deign multiple IPs and patents. We always felt we could do better and out of the box not that it has been done. My feeling has always been anything that has been done in past can be improved. Any design or innovation is part of whole market and I would not quantify. I do feel fortunate and blessed that I was part of this team to do the work which changed the history of Silicon Valley and around the world.
In the past, there had been lawsuits filed against you by National semiconductor /Fairchild and then by Cypress semiconductor, but you stood firm and came out with flying colors. Can you comment little bit about that?
It all started with my first semiconductor company, Vinod Khosla helped me to make the business plan. And part of my wife’s mentoring all the time and subsequently we took funding from Cypress Semiconductor. We were building the team, the product and everything was going well from my perspective; however, the chairman of our company did not see it the same way. Unfortunately he fired me; I got word from my attorney who was also his attorney! The important lesson I learned is that one cannot only work hard. The business world is cut-throat; financing arrangements are ambiguous and IP law is ambiguous. Good faith and trust are important but they are not sufficient. It’s a very long story and comes back to the basics that when things do not go right: how do you cope up with the situation. Those fundamentals are part of your family values and in my particular case was my wife that said if you have not done anything wrong and you have yourself been wronged, then you have to fight until the end. That inspiration made me go through the law suits, rest is history. It became landmark in the valley.
You were amongst the top 10 Indian Americans honored by NFIA (The National Federation of Indian Americans) for 30 years of outstanding community service. How does it feel?
I feel happy but think there are lot more people in Silicon Valley more capable than me. They should also be rewarded as we move forward.
How and why you became involved with Global school? What is the idea behind it? What differentiate it from others?
After learning from the episodes of life, my wife (Chandra) and I became part of founding team of TiE. Initially it used to take much of our time. Once that took off, we wanted to do something better. We now have grandchildren and I thought to venture into education for them. I call it TiE 2 for our next generation of children. To show them qualities of entrepreneurship, technology and our heritage, that is the force behind this. Now both of us are fully occupied with the school.
We follow three mantras that differentiate us from others. First, we want to teach the children total global prospective. They are born in 21st century they will be seeing totally different world from what we have seen. For example, our global school in Silicon Valley is tied up best schools in the world like Stanford, Berkeley, London, Oxford, etc. We do video conferencing in HD and let our children see children of all our 23 campuses. It is now time to apply technology to education. All children have to mandatory learn a language whether Mandarin, Spanish or Hindi. Second mantra is we want to have a well rounded kid. Third mantra is academic excellence.
We go in above order and do not deviate from it. When we opened this school some of friends enrolled their children because of my name. In South Asians there is a mid-set of the parents that they want academic excellence only. Our vision was for first 6-8 weeks children should just have fun and explore the school, rest will come automatically. Some of the parents go frustrated in the process that their kids are not learning fast enough so they left. But we didn’t deviate.
You were also involved with nonprofit organization like TiE; tell us a little bit more about your involvement with them.
We use to be part of seven founders and meet anywhere, in my office, my home, cafeteria… We are in minority here but we have lots of capabilities and wanted to see what we can give to our community. We wanted to form a group where we could teach our entrepreneurship skills and share our experiences with them. That was the basic foundation. Mentoring, networking and helping budding entrepreneurs who could learn from 20 years of our experience. We didn’t want our fellow Indians to suffer or go through hardship that we had, to assist them to grow.
What does future holds for you?
It’s very bright and exciting. There is so much to do in education. In next 10-12 years we are going to expand this education model. Our goal is to have 100 campuses all over the world by year 2020. We are concentrating in building solid foundation. We are also trying to move our corporate headquarter at Moffet field with other like Perdue, CMU, etc.
Has being a “Desi” affected you in either good or bad way in achieving your goals?
It has. In earlier years when I wanted start my own company and were not respected that we could handle this. We were considered to be just engineers. That made us stronger as we call it “fire in a belly”; color has no bearing on our desires. Frankly we formed a group TIE, of similar people and we believe in this cause. We should be respected for what we are and not because of color. Initially even our close friends didn’t believe in TiE and said we had formed the organization to show our wealth. They didn’t believe we really wanted to do something for our community. That was a struggle for few years.
Do you feel being in the Silicon Valley accelerated your career goals?
Yes. It’s always in the society - what you have and what you are surrounded with. Silicon Valley is the capital of innovation. I owe a lot to it.
What are your Favorite places to eat and activities to do in bay area?
I enjoy people. I love to mentor. I still am a mentor at TiE. I like Amber and Thai cuisine restaurants. I like to play with my grandchildren. I have a hobby to play cards and travel.
How do you enjoy your culture here in the Bay Area?
Bay Area has cross culture, gives us opportunity to learn and that’s what we want to translate to our children.
If you had one piece of advice for South Asians, what would it be?
Believe in yourself, be honest, work hard and you can reach wherever you want to.
You can stay connected with Narpat Bhandari via